Breathing in a Breath of Freedom

Today marks the first official day that I’m a stay at home dad and no longer a teacher. Children are heading back to school all across the country and teachers have woken up with that slight (or in some cases, huge) sinking feeling of being ‘back to the grind stone.’ And yet here I am rejoicing in the fact that I am now free from being asked to do things that I categorically disagree with. (I’ll share all about this in a another post, so keep an eye out…) Whilst I sit here typing, many teachers across the country are congregating in sub-funded, ill-equipped halls, disgruntled with the way the teaching profession is heading and as sad as it may be, I am a little excited that I no longer have to be a yes man to anyone, except Ted. (And the wife of course…but some things will never change.)


The thing that now makes me most excited, however, is that I am free to write & publish what I like. As a teacher, I was always looking over my shoulder with regards to what’s published for fear of provoking a huge line of parents wielding their letters of complaints at my ex-headteachers office door.

From here on in, you’ll be reading far more un-vetted versions of fatherhood.

Oh and one last thing, I’m also sitting here typing in my new work uniform…my pyjamas. (Pictures available on request…)



  1. Janine Dolan 11 April, 2016 / 11:12 am

    Enjoy your time at home with Ted. I am sure we will hear even more from you now. :) Delighted.

    • Al Ferguson 11 April, 2016 / 8:07 pm

      Looking forward to sharing our adventures. Thank you :)

  2. Alice 11 April, 2016 / 12:18 pm

    Don’t get me wrong it’s great that you have decided to” spend more time with the family” but this post REALLY irks me. Thank god your “poor” colleagues are prepared to sit in that “sub-funded, ill-equipped hall” and put any disgruntlement they feel aside to focus on the needs of the children – including those now facing the rest of the school year with a new teacher because theirs couldn’t handle accountability enough to stick with them to the end of the school year?! No I’m not a school mum but I don’t see why you making a decision to take a different path gives you any right whatsoever to be so judgemental on those still working hard. Isn’t your wife still one of these poor souls? How are those connected to your old school, parents, colleagues and children supposed to feel with you spouting off like this? You think you’re not accountable anymore? I’d think again. You’re not a teacher anymore but you are accountable for your actions.

    So I hope you will think very seriously about the future post that you refer to. Move on with your new life but don’t be bitter about what you’ve left behind as it casts doubt on exactly what your agenda is now. Focus on you and Ted and your parenting blog please.

    • Al Ferguson 11 April, 2016 / 6:33 pm

      Hi Alice,

      Firstly, your comment wasn’t held back… as you can see I have just published 2 other comments as well. I was “spending time with my family” rather than waiting for comments to publish!

      Thank you for your comment and thank you also for proving my point. What gives people (parents) the right to talk to teachers the way they do? No parent would question their doctor, or accountant, or bus driver and speak to them in this was yet they feel they can speak to teachers however they like.

      You’ve sparked off many thoughts in my head, so the easiest way to respond is in bullet points.

      – I’m confused as to why you have put “spend more time with the family…”

      – I am also confused why “poor” is in inverted commas too. No-where have I referred to my ex colleagues as poor. I have the utmost respect for them and am far from judgemental.

      – In fact, the only judgement in this post is for the teaching profession itself. Again I’m confused as to where you read any other judgement.

      – My comment about ill-equipped and sub-standard halls is a fact across the country. It’s widely known that state schools are under funded and in many schools, basic equipment is lacking due to budgets. Believe me, if I shared with you the whole truth, the lack of resources would astound you.

      – The disgruntled comment is also based on fact. Last year saw the highest number of teachers leave the profession due to being unhappy. (Disgruntled was putting it quite mildly I thought.) It’s no secret that teachers are over worked and under paid, which is wrong. What should be one of the most celebrated and highly respected jobs in the world, is the opposite. Please, don’t take my word for it, here are some links to help you understand the national crisis with the teaching profession:

      If you think this is me being bitter, it’s far from it. I’m highlighting the fact that I am pleased to have a way out of what is essentially a sinking ship unless something is done about it.

      – You refer to the children’s needs in your comment and I can only assume from this comment that you have never been a teacher. Believe me, as someone who has taught for 5 years, in all honesty, the children’s needs are falling further down the priority list than ever before. Yes, many educators say they put the children’s needs first but tell me this:

      Do children NEED to be tested within an inch of their life?
      Do children NEED to know the difference between an adverb of degree and an adverb of manner in year 4?
      Do children NEED countless risk assessments to be done for simply using shaving foam in a science lesson?
      Do children NEED to be indoors for the majority of the day?

      The children’s needs are far from being met by our current education system.

      – In relation to leaving at mid-way through the year, I assume your dissatisfaction with this is also being directed towards the other 4 teachers (yes, 4!!!) who left at the same time. And the 2 at christmas? Are you suggesting they couldn’t handle accountability enough, or is that directly solely at me? That is just one school. The story is similar in many. Not to mention the vast numbers of teachers across the country waiting for that opportunity to abandon ship.

      You might be satisfied with an unhappy, exhausted, uninspired and disillusioned teacher teaching your children (or friends children), but I certainly wouldn’t that for my children. It’s sad that many children are in this situation around the UK. (I am making no reference here to any specific teacher I have worked with.) I want better for my children, and for all children. Don’t they deserve better?

      – Contrary to what you might think, I am a huge advocate for teaching, which is why I feel it important to speak up when things aren’t right. If we want to see something change for the better, we have to highlight the things that aren’t working. I feel in a good position to do this, and so plan on doing so. Teaching would fast become a better place if teachers did feel able to speak out and stand up for what they think is right. Thankfully this is beginning to happen a lot more.

      – I’m still accountable for my actions? The confusion is back again… exactly who am I accountable to when I write and share my thoughts, feelings and opinions on my own personal blog?

      – What gets me the most is that you don’t have to read this. I imagine (hope) you have shared this post with some of your friends, yet you don’t like what you’ve read? No-one forces you to read, so if you don’t want to, don’t.

      -Thankfully we live in a country with freedom of speech and I am allowed to have and share my opinion. Something I would also encourage children to do.

      The teaching profession is being described as a national crisis. not by me, by many. Open a newspaper, turn on the news, it’s everywhere. I do not believe the few, very harmless, sentences I wrote require your response. I am writing from experience. Experience that tells me that many teachers are unhappy with the system. Maybe I’ll be inundated by teachers telling me otherwise. Let’s wait and see…..

      Is this a more personal attack on me rather than the mild paragraph I wrote?

    • martyn 12 April, 2016 / 12:17 pm

      Wow. Clearly you missed a lot in this post and focused on all the negative points.
      I see this from 3 points of view and am in complete agreement with Al but, I suppose, you haven’t seen or experienced the system to really understand it.

      As a Teacher:
      I worked as a teacher for 10 years. 10 years of working 12 hour days of a 7 hour job. This was setting up lessons, marking, planning, copying, meetings and tick boxes. 5 hours more a day than I was getting paid for. Why? Because i put children and their needs first. You say the needs of the children being put first and that you feel sorry for them? Wow, I don’t know a teacher who didn’t and does what I used to! We, in truth, put other people’s children and their needs often above our own. And you say poor them? Poor my children for not seeing their daddy as much as they should because I’m putting strangers first. What for? Enjoyment of the job? Minimal pay per actual work hours? For other parents to know their child is looked after and educated but yours aren’t? I’m sorry, but there is a point in time when you have to put your family first.
      What if Al was a woman and he’d fallen pregnant? Would you begrudge him taking time off for maternity leave and making other people’s children cope with a new teacher for 9 months because you’ve just given birth? Of course you wouldn’t!

      As an Inspector:
      The last 3 years of my career I was scouted, hired and worked diligently for Ofsted. I’ve seen schools in dire positions. I’ve seen teachers losing the day to day battle with legislation changes, governmental restrictions or new initiatives or lack of support or funding to ACTUALLY do their job! So yes, poor staff in the or ill equipped halls and classrooms with their subfunded situations.
      Teachers are in teh same situation as nirses and I see plenty of people sticking up for them. Why? Because they save lives of our loved ones and yet you chastise Al’s comments when he’s, as well as myself and others, have worked, cared for, supported, nurtured the most precious person in a parents lives. It’s a FACT that schools are in this position; have you not seen the news? Have you not seen the growing change from schools to academy’s so they can’t stop falling into abandonment? And that’s not even discussing the fact of the level of education in academies.

      As a Parent:

      I have 2 school aged children and neither attend school. I home educate them. Why? Because in my 10 years as a teacher and 3 years with Ofsted ive seen nothing that would allow to believe that I can trust the future of my children in such a mediocre environment filled with disgruntled and poorly supported and paid staff. My eldest attended reception and do you know how many teachers he had in one year? 3! And I don’t blame them! 32 children in one class. 12 hour days. No real holidays because you’re designing experiments, marking, writing reports, building models and displays. And doing this 32 times!! And what about the school? The only local school we have, a school that’s been in special measures for 3 years, that have had hundreds of thousands of funds thrown at them to improve and still fail at the first hurdle. As for my boys, they’ve passed their tests, they’ve passed inspections, they’ve got an education that can’t be met anywhere else!

      I left the system and I rejoiced, just like Al.
      What I didn’t do was read someone’s personal blog, decided to troll him for a life choice that doesn’t suit my own. Criticise them on something that, by the sounds of it, you know absolutely nothing about! Al has provided some great links. Read them, educate yourself and ask the question. Who’s more important, my family, may children or someone else’s.

      As for you Al…..enjoy it and welcome to the SAHD club!

  3. Fiona @ Free Range Chick 11 April, 2016 / 1:51 pm

    Congratulations! I gave up my career a couple of years ago (I was a nurse), to look after my kids. It was an outstanding decision to make and I haven’t looked back for a second. Enjoy the freedom and the extra time with Ted!

    • Al Ferguson 11 April, 2016 / 8:07 pm

      That is great to hear. Thank you :)

  4. Sian Ellis 11 April, 2016 / 2:35 pm

    Good luck Al! I bet most people wish they could leave their jobs, but few have the guts to do it! Hope it all works out for you xx

  5. Alice 11 April, 2016 / 3:31 pm

    Hi – I posted a comment earlier but it has been held back and I’m not sure why?!

  6. Christina - Ladybug Home 11 April, 2016 / 4:07 pm

    Congratulations! You have worked very hard outside of teaching job to create this blog and blogging network. I think it is wonderful that you can spend more time with Ted and your wife. Being a teacher is a job that I have a lot of respect for but definitely does not get the support it should. Enjoy your new sense of freedom. Happy Days!

    • Al Ferguson 11 April, 2016 / 8:07 pm

      Thank you so much. I really appreciate your comment :)

  7. J 11 April, 2016 / 7:36 pm

    Bloody good for you mate, I hope this next chapter of your lives will be wonderful. To have the choice to be able to be an SAHP is one to be treasured :)

    As an aside, I think it’s a sad state of affairs to hear about more teachers (and others!) leaving their professions. Not leaving to be SAHPs, but becoming so disillusioned/leaving because there is now so much darned red tape, that it prevents them doing the jobs they love doing and their charges suffer. And believe me, I know what I’m talking about. And I’m a nurse, not a teacher.

    Of course Al should say what he said. He wasn’t rude, he wasn’t insulting colleagues or the school he taught at. He wasn’t blasting parents or children. All I read and interpreted from his blog was his relief to be out of the system that was no doubt turning teaching into something entirely different from what he imagined it would be when he first decided to become a teacher.

    Am I going to get into trouble for saying that hospitals are understaffed? That all too often there’s just one trained staff member for 10 acutely unwell patients (ask me how I know that one!)? That I’ve seen doctors and staff members work for hours without breaks? I sure hope not, because all I’m doing is stating facts. Am I slagging my colleagues or patients off for saying that? Hell no, I respect them too much.

    Like I said, I’m not a teacher (although I know many excellent teachers): it’s a very special kind of person who goes into teaching. But I can see/hear only too well just how much policy is sucking the life out of teachers.

    Also accountability? Where on earth does this come into it?! Al didn’t walk out of his job one day on a whim. Anymore than I would. He would have followed the correct and proper protocols, after no doubt thinking and agonising long and hard about his decision. You see, this isn’t something you just waltz into, anymore than my job is. You live and breathe it.

    So yep, I say again, bloody good on you Al (and Jen) on stepping towards this next new adventure in your lives. But also, what a tragedy that education has lost yet another amazing soul.

    Much love xxx

    • Al Ferguson 11 April, 2016 / 7:52 pm

      Thank you.

      I appreciate your words and I appreciate your understanding. I loved many aspects of teaching, and most of all I thoroughly enjoyed teaching the great children in my classes. I certainly did live and breathe my job.
      But…as you so rightly say, the systems have changed and the red tape is drowning the real reason we are all there- to educate, care for and enrich the lives of children.
      I am very aware of the current state of affairs within the nursing profession and I strongly support those fighting for change and a better system there too. We need to care for our nurses, doctors, teachers and those within the public service sector and do everything we can to encourage happy and healthy work life balance for all.
      Thanks again.

  8. Rosina 11 April, 2016 / 7:50 pm

    Firstly, WELL DONE for embracing your decision to become a stay at home Dad to Ted. I wish there were more like you. I have observed and admired you from a distance in awe because what you have done with The Dad Network and achieved supporting dads and mums alike is inspiring. I have seen first hand the impact you have and continue to leave on them on a daily basis. I commend you and look forward to seeing things develop further :-)

    Furthermore, I too made the decision to leave my 10+ career as a senior nurse, at management level, behind for many of the same reasons. I entered the profession to make a difference, to deliver the care the EVERYONE deserves. However, because of the budget’s, politic’s, ever changing barrier’s and cuts across the trusts it was becoming impossible to deliver even a basic standard of care safely, becoming more dangerous for both patients and staff and standards which were slipping at an alarming rate. I could go on and on about my issue’s, the issues within the health care system as a whole and why I chose to leave but this is just to make a point that if your not able to do the job you signed up for you are more than entitled to pack it in and speak openly of your reasons exactly why without fear of being ridiculed and criticised for it.

    People seem to think when someone leaves a meaningful key frontline professions like nursing or teaching that we are somehow how selfish and irresponsible. When that is furthest from the truth. We do not want to be accountable for non-delivery of the very best services we were there to give because of the plethora of barriers put into place over the past decade or more. What’s more is that we are HUMAN and we have families, we have the innate human instinct to do whatever we feel we need and should do that is right for “US” as individuals and our families but over the years the government demands and constraints stretching across society that has made increases in bystander apathy the norm and giving people the assumption that they are somehow entitled to be obnoxious and critical of anyone, anytime they see fit.

    I am all for constructive critique if it is based on facts and not projections of one’s own perceptions and alternate realities. You go right ahead and give us your take and account of your career and why you decided to move on to improve your family dynamic’s and continue to reach out to parents and their families alike in a slightly different supportive role. Your still a teacher of sorts with your blogs and the support you give. Do not let ANYONE and yes I mean (Alice) deter you from speaking out on any matters you see fit based on her own projections and perceptions.

    This last bit is for you (Alice) I have a disabled daughter who sustained a level of brain damage after contracting Meningitis at 12 weeks old. Based on my ability to freely and effectively teach her by adjusting, adapting and bringing her forward from developmentally delayed to now on par or above intellectually, combined with a plethora of other constraints in education and how it has failed so many families and children, I am home educating her. She thrives with me teaching her, I am able to inspire her, bring out her best side, allow her to absorb as much or as little as she needs on a day to day basis without the regimented, restrictive and conforming education system that is provided now.

    I feel you owe Al an apology because the comments you have made are so far from the truth. As Al suggested he intends to elaborate on the various elements that drove him to make the move away from teaching at a later date. If that includes any criticism for his previous role or his lack of being able to fill his role then so be it.

    • Al Ferguson 11 April, 2016 / 8:06 pm

      Thank you. I have worked very hard to create The Dad Network and I am extremely proud of it. It is always great to hear others speak so positively of the impact it has. Thank you so much.

      I am sorry to hear of your reasons for leaving a career you loved.

      You explain your reasons brilliantly and I could not agree more.

      I am so glad that you have found what works for you and for your daughter and I wish you every success with home educating. Please shout if you ever want to discuss any lesson ideas.

      Thank you for your ongoing support.

      • Rosina 11 April, 2016 / 8:17 pm

        You’re very welcome. Credit where it is due.

        I have taught in different guises across my careers so it’s not new to me and I was an NVQ assessor in a previous life too ;-)

        BUT that’s where it ends so I will hold you to the shout out for lesson planning for primary age :-) I have various pieces of the frameworks downloaded already to ensure she meets them in addition to everything else I plan to teach her.

    • Alice 11 April, 2016 / 8:36 pm

      I hope my new comment clarifies where I am coming from. These comments are not personal – unlike those now levelled at me.

      I’m sorry to hear about your situation and wholeheartedly commend you for what you are doing for your daughter and understand why you feel the system can’t do this. I hope she continues to thrive.

      My only reason for commenting is to prevent upset to the children and parents who may have been previously connected to Al. I was merely asking that this be considered. That’s it, end of so please don’t pretend that I intended anything else.

      • Al Ferguson 11 April, 2016 / 9:18 pm

        I’m sure it has cleared it up. I’m also sure that children won’t be upset by reading this; primarily because any primary school aged child shouldn’t be on the internet un-supervised and a ‘dad’ website is obviously not aimed at children. Thanks again for your comments.

  9. Alice 11 April, 2016 / 8:28 pm

    It’s not a personal attack at all but I have clearly hit a nerve with a response like that! If it is an attack on anything it is the tone of the post which, although you say was not intended, did come across as derogatory or scornful towards what you had left behind, and the specific situation you were in rather than education in general. That’s to say it felt like a personal attack on your old school/headmaster/parents of your old class. I don’t have a connection or reason to get personally upset at that (and can’t comment on the specifics that you mention because I don’t know about them so will disregard comments about numbers of teachers, Christmas etc!) but if felt to me as if it was inappropriate. Yes you have left teaching but I imagine that many of your followers have a connection to you through your old profession and I can only say that if I were a parent of someone you had taught, your post would have upset me and I commented because I wondered if you had considered this and really thought it through before posting? If there had been a line of parents queuing up as you suggest, would they not have had the right to do so given that you had a duty of care to their children? I didn’t, and still don’t understand why the fact that you were accountable to them and the headteacher at your school was a problem/stressful factor for you?

    Yes we live in a society of free speech and long may it continue – my comment was purely motivated by my personal feeling that the post felt inappropriate on a parenting blog and alluding to there being more to come felt like an attack. Like I’ve said above, I only commented to ascertain whether you had thought this through or considered this before posting? I, and I am sure many of your followers, appreciate the value and advice that the Dad Network can offer as a parenting blog. For me, and perhaps not others (which is fine!), this post crossed a line and felt like a threat was being made of “spilling the beans” or “expose to come” and I can only speak for myself but that doesn’t feel necessary or in keeping with The Dad Network so far?

    I also work in education and agree with you on everything you have said !(thanks for the links!). Everyone I know involved in education (primary, secondary or tertiary) is fully committed to improving the situation as much as they can. There’s a long political debate to be had here (again – inappropriate on a parenting blog!) but suffice to say it’s a dire situation. I may have acted differently in your situation – who knows (and as before, I don’t!) but agree with you that if you feel as you do then it’s great that you have found your route out and I wish you the very best in the time you have to spend with Ted. As a working parent I value every second I spend with my children and the time goes too fast. It’s not time that you get back so treasure every second.

    Like I said at the start, I clearly hit a nerve. It wasn’t my intention to anger or attack, purely to make you think I guess. Is this what your audience want? Does it serve a constructive purpose? Will it cause offence or upset to anyone involved in the your previous situation? I guess it’s all about more Ted, less TED style posts!

    • Al Ferguson 11 April, 2016 / 9:14 pm

      The tone in which your first comment was written, came over (not just to me) as an attack on a decision I’d made. That’s why I felt the need to respond, rather than hitting any nerve. It’s good that we agree on many of those points and you’re welcome for the links. :)

      I think however, that you have read far too much onto my post and having spoken to a number of different people, no-one has taken offence to what I wrote. I appreciate your concern, all the same and I also appreciate your desire to make me think about what I publish, rest assured, I do. One thing being a teacher has done to me, it’s made me think a lot about what I publish and what I don’t.

      With regards to spilling the beans etc, any spilt beans will be directly aimed at the teaching profession as a whole, rather than pointed at specific people (many of whom are friends…) and I am entitled to have these opinions. There are lot’s of people going round to individual schools to train head teachers & teachers who are saying the same thing. There platform is their consultancy company or whatever, my platform is this parenting blog.

      It’s also a little tricky, without going into the details of why my experience of running a blog as a teacher has been such a problem. I know many bloggers who are also teachers and they haven’t had to deal with as many ‘problems’ as I have. I’d be very happy to share these with you privately.

      And in relation to this kind of content being relevant, within this network, education is a regular topic that concerns many parents. As the editor of all the content that is published, I feel education is highly relevant to any parenting blog, especially this one.

      Again, it’s good that we can agree on a lot of what’s being discussed and I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

  10. Alice 11 April, 2016 / 9:27 pm

    Good luck with it all Al – I agree that teaching and blogging is problematic but you’re firmly in one camp now which will undoubtedly be easier for you! All I am concerned about is that the debate is at the right level – it has to be about concepts, theory and yes throw in experience but don’t make it too personal to those involved if they aren’t choosing to be included (this is where I reference accountability, particularly where online content is concerned). Maybe I misinterpreted the tone of your post but if I was able to then others could too and, I suppose because of my experience in education, I was concerned that it felt personal and there may be detriment to children and families who still consider you “their” teacher. In my experience, children get very attached to their class teacher and feelings are therefore vulnerable when this changes mid year. I’m all for debate but I don’t want a bitching session. Which, ironically, I seemed to spark off inadvertently!

    Here’s to all public servants striving against adversity to follow their passion and achieve the best for those they serve. Maybe that can extend to bloggers too?!

    • Al Ferguson 11 April, 2016 / 9:32 pm

      That’s where this started, though. I didn’t make it personal and I certainly wasn’t bitchy. Like you suggest, everything on the internet can be interpreted however someone wants to interpret it; I know I won’t please everyone. I would really be shocked if any children read this, a parent blog is obviously not aimed at children, and children should be supervised when on the internet anyway. Thanks again

  11. Charlie Talt 12 April, 2016 / 9:26 am


    How exciting, enjoy all the time with your little man! I am intrigued to know with your opinion on the education system will you home school Ted? I have just left my four year old howling his eyes out at school with no comfort from his teachers as they are so busy, I am considering homeschooling myself.

  12. Cheryl 12 April, 2016 / 1:58 pm

    Congratulations on making the right choice for you and your family, Al. I don’t think anyone should judge you for:
    – not enjoying your job and wanting to freely share why that is the case
    – when you chose to leave your job, or make assumptions about why you chose that time, mental happiness is very important as is the right to put your family first at a time of your choice
    – dictate to you the content of your blog.

    You obviously love being a parent. Keep posting. About that anything else you damn well please!

  13. e scott 12 April, 2016 / 7:15 pm

    Congratulations on your new found freedom! I’d love to be a stay at home dad to my three little ones (all under four) but at the moment it’s not possible purely for financial reasons. Wishing you all the best and looking forward to reading all about it.

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